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Wednesday, August 09, 2017

The Multicultural Road to Hell

I’ve got a simple message in this post. Simple, yes, but not the less needed for all that.

What have you done with the gospel, Christian? Where is your voice these days?

I’m not telling. I’m asking. I don’t know you, or what you’ve done, or where you’ve been. Really, this is a question only you can ask yourself, and only you can answer.

Well, you and God, of course, because that’s the urgent point. God knows what we’ve done with the gospel. He knows whether we’ve been living like we believe it, or only saying we do, and living another way. He knows.

I don’t.

A Worry

But if there’s one thing I fear about this, it’s that too many of us have been shut down by our culture’s language of compromise. I do not find myself confronted by many people with the gospel. Nobody approaches me and says, “Well, I’ve been wanting to talk about your soul …” and then, when he finds out I am already saved, says, “I beg your pardon, brother; I’m happy for us both, and must be on my way.” Those conversations never happen to me. And yet, I’m about as open to someone approaching me with the gospel as any person can be.

So how come it never happens?

I worry. I worry that we have given up the gospel. And I don’t think it’s because we don’t believe it anymore. I think we’ve been cowed by the get-along spirit of our age, and it’s tranquilized us with respect to our duty to preach the message of salvation.

We have been put to sleep by the siren songs of the multicultural road to hell.

Not the Point

There’s a lot of hot talk around these days about things like immigration and national identity. None of that interests me at all. Some of it’s probably good, and some of it’s probably bad: but either way, I’m not in charge of any of that — and I don’t want to be. So let’s dispense right away with any idea I care about official multicultural political policy, or current immigration controversies, or any of that nonsense.

The Wide Road

I’m talking about inclusion. The road to hell is just so very inclusive. It’s so open-minded. It’s so tolerant of everything. It’s so multicultural.

Every culture, subculture and so-called “culture” — racial, regional, national, linguistic, aesthetic, historical, sexual, political, religious and ideological — is on it. Here we find Third-Wave Feminists walking companionably with neo-Nazis. Frivolous ecumenists and neo-Wiccan priestesses dance beside frowning atheists. Frisking down the road, gay activists hold hands with the ISIL terrorists who routinely throw them off buildings. It doesn’t matter what one really believes here. People of every race, religion and lifestyle all gyrate and spin in a human mosaic of infinite variety. There is space for everything and everyone, from ascetics to hedonists, from men to women to those who imagine they are neither man nor woman.

Every form of everything is welcome. And the soundtrack that floats above the cacophony of that ribald crowd is Frank Sinatra’s anthem ... I Did It My Way.

All But One

Did I say that everything is welcome?

Well, everything but the truth. On this road, the one intolerable is the gospel-believer, particularly the one who speaks that truth. There is even room for the one who secretly believes, but holds his tongue and does not “confess with his mouth”. The road to hell is a broad place, and many there are who travel it. It can hold a lot of people.

In contrast, the way to heaven is “narrow”. It allows approach from many directions, to be sure: you can start out for that gate from anywhere. But when you get there, you will find that it squeezes down until only one person at a time can come, and there’s only one way through. Nobody enters shoulder-by-shoulder, or as part of a group: groups go through the other gate. And nobody enters by any other door; there’s only one way in.

It does not matter how easy or hard that is for us to accept: it’s a fact. It does not matter if it offends all those on the broad road, from atheists to Zoroastrians. They may rant and gnash their teeth at us; it will not help them. They may call us narrow and fanatical for sticking to the one way. But their venom will not soften that truth or broaden that gate. It is what it is.

Real Inclusion

Paradoxically, though, the way it provides is universally inclusive: whosoever will may come. It won’t shorten your odds if you are a woman or a man. It won’t change your chances if you are white and Western or a native Fiji islander. It won’t help you if you are a Pharisee, or hurt your chances if you started out as a biker with Hell’s Angels. Being born into prosperity won’t give you the edge, and you won’t be at a loss even if you live under the horrid scourge of slavery or imprisonment. You may walk in the sunshine every day, or be in the darkest pit of ultimate foulness and despair. But it doesn’t matter. It’s not where you started that counts; it’s where you ended up. You’ve got to get down to the gate.

Get Them Down to the Gate

I think we need to remind ourselves of that today. We live in an age in which tolerance, acceptance, open-mindedness, pluralism, amorality and alternate lifestyles are lauded to the skies, and the only “sin” left is refusal to embrace all that. But this is not the teaching of the Bible. As God sees it, sin remains as wide and various as the alternate “ways” people choose to travel, and just as deadly as it always was. The preaching of the narrow way is just as crucial as it has ever been. The ideological shifts of our day do not shift God. And they do not widen the gate.

So the Bible tells us to give up the nonsense of inclusion, the prattle about the “many roads to God”, the omni-tolerant rubbish. The Bible has no use for the soft-headed softening of the heart toward evil in the name of acceptance. There are milestones to be hit, and a destination to be aimed at; and anything other than that is disaster.

Pointing to the Gate

To be a gospel witness is to be willing to say so.

I’m going to say more. To be a faithful Christian is to delight in saying more. It’s to pull down the proud towers of omni-tolerance. It’s to shatter academic pretension, to smash the citadels of egocentric “freedom”, self-confidence and the worship of humanity, and to revel in beating the whole stock of modern, open-minded and empty-headed delusions to thin dust.

It’s to upset everyone, so that everyone can be saved.

Because the road they’re going down with such alacrity and enthusiasm leads only to the Pit.

“Near” Misses

Remember this when you hear someone taking about “nearly-Christians”. A Unitarian or Jehovah’s Witness who does not believe in Christ as the door is not a Christian. Not even a bit. A Catholic who believes every theological pronouncement of Catholicism is not a Christian, and a United Church person who believes in the theology of the United Church Synod is not a Christian: they are legalists. A very morally-earnest Muslim or Jewish person is not an “anonymous Christian” (i.e., someone who doesn’t know they believe the gospel but actually does). What they believe is not good enough. They are just as lost as the Apostle Paul once was. All of that inclusive song merely floats over from the other road, emanating ultimately from the Pit.

I will go farther. Even an evangelical Christian who does not really believe and practice the truth — that person is also not a Christian, though he goes to the “right” church and says all the “right” words. The Lord knows the hearts; and though a man may be full of all the right doctrine and sentiments, that will not save him. Stop including him in your thoughts as a “believer”. He’s just as lost as everybody else on the broad road.

Get them all down to the gate. There is no other way.

Simple

That’s a simple message, isn’t it? Funny how the simplest messages are sometimes the easiest to forget. But we cannot afford to be caught asleep at the switch on this one. We have a universal duty — a sacred duty which you alone, not your church, must fulfill — to speak the truth of the gospel to as many people as we can, whether they want it or not.

Don’t let the lukewarm and vapid nonsense about acceptance, inclusion and toleration lull you to sleep about this, or the absurd fear of being perceived to be “harsh” or “closed-minded” keep you from this sacred duty. For at the end of the day, none of those who publish this pap will stand beside you to help you make your answer to God.

The door is still open. Make sure you’re still pointing to it.

6 comments :

  1. I have come across the notion or term "degree of Christianity" and think it is meant to imply that as people we are capable of having various personal notions of how we should apply Christian beliefs in our daily lives. Therefore, I think you must be careful about calling someone a Christian, and others not, using very sharp lines of demarcation. I totally agree that if Christ is not central to your belief system, as for a Jehovah Witness or atheist that it would be absurd to claim you are Christian. But if it is merely poor execution on your part of how you carry out your daily Christian living that this does not necessarily make you a non-Christian. Naturally, such a spectrum exists for all things in all people. E.g., I strongly belief in the benefits of veganism just that, shall we say, my execution is a bit sloppy and, frankly, sometimes I call myself a cheating vegan. Part of the reason behind such behavior is simply related to information quality and flow and the person's interpretation of such especially in view of their personal preferences, thinking skills, and their estimate of the motivation for and veracity of the source of such information. My take therefore is more along the lines of what Christ said by suggesting that execution of his taught Christian virtues is what counts. So, I know quite a few people who are not Church goers or believers in Christ who in many instances exemplify better qualities of so-called Christian behavior then me. Undoubtedly I will have a much harder time when stacked up against them as a "Christian" then the other way around. I may even have a serious disadvantage. So, I understand your enthusiasm but would urge a bit more caution when trying to figure out God's value system and a person's standing.

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    1. There are some things that are measured by degree - temperature comes to mind. But Christianity isn't like that - you are or you are not. There are no degrees. There are people who have a relationship with God through the work of Christ. And there are people who don't.

      That is the great dividing line and it isn't fuzzy at all.

      God's value system isn't hard to figure out at all. He's been very, very clear about it - "no man comes to the father but by me". Now you and I may struggle to recognize a weak Christian as a Christian at all. But God doesn't. He knows his own. And his dividing line is very, very clear. No degrees at all. In or out. Off or on. Black or white. No degrees.

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  2. There is a Catholic view that apparently comes from Karl Rahner's theology, that employs the concept of "general grace" to argue that a person can be a kind of "anonymous Christian." For example, if a Muslim or Hindu were a morally earnest person, he or she would be a kind of Christian-without-knowing-it. If there were a thing to be said in favour of that idea, it would not only cover Muslims and Hindus, but also JW's and even rank atheists. That's because it assumes salvation is by good works, not by faith; so one's faith could be in anything, and one could still be covered by "general grace."

    The first problem with this, of course, is that the Bible flatly and repeatedly denies it (see Eph. 2:8-9, or Titus 3:5, for example). But a secondary problem is that it is so imperialistic. It refuses to take the claims of Hindus, Muslims, Jews, JW's, Mormons or atheists as serious, and "reinterprets" them against their will into the Catholic system, telling them they simply misunderstand their own beliefs.

    So yes, no degrees. I understand that people who believe in "general grace" think they're being "nice" or "charitable." But if we think faith is the basis of salvation, and if we take people seriously they have a right to live and die according to whatever faith they actually hold, not to be coopted into a universalizing system that Karl Rahner or anyone else has designed for them.

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  3. By now I am familiar with the Protestant notion of "saved by faith alone" (hope I got that right). But I thought it was clear that that is not what I am referring to. I am referring to the fact that how you apply faith in your life is imperfect and sometimes severely so. In case that happens I see that as a diminution, a lowering in degree, of your Christianity (I mean a general your, not anyone in particular). As far as I know that is the most prevalent way in which humanity operates with anything, namely, utter lack of, or only partial degree of, perfection in our beliefs and undertakings. As an analogy, you can be a near perfect republican or democrat or a poor one in various degrees. Now I would not agree that Christ stops relating to or loving you just because of sloppy execution of your faith but that human imperfection is one of the reasons he came for and I also believe that his behavior would be consistent on this side and the other side of our existence when those who have a hard time with incorporating the notion of a spiritual reality in their lives will finally meet him face to face.

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  4. Hey Q: If you're simply saying that there are good Christians and bad Christians and that these things are a matter of degree, you're right. Some Christians are more obedient, more productive, more faithful, more mature than others.

    If you want workable analogies, so let's go with this one:

    I have two brothers. In whatever metric you choose to examine, they are less or more than I by degree - they are not the same. So they are better looking or smarter or kinder or more faithful to the family than I. They live in different cities, they are different ages, they have had manifestly different by degrees life experiences.

    But we did not become family by acting like a family. We did not become family by degree. We have always been and will always be a family by virtue of a single event, not a process. We are united by a birth that IS shared no matter what other differences by degree arise.

    And others who do not share that single birth event - no matter how close they are to us - are NOT family.

    There are Christians and non-Christians. All Christians are united by a common fact of new birth; a single event. All Christians have been "born again" to use a term not much appreciated these days. If you have not been born into the family of God, you're not a Christian. Period. And if you have been born again, you are a Christian. Period.

    In or out. Black or white.

    Now once you're in, yeah - there are degrees. Closer to or farther from the gold standard of Christ, but all of us falling short to some degree.

    But if you're outside the single event of being born again into the family of God, there is simply no way - no matter how "good" or "faithful" you are to even a great ideal - to become a Christian.

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    1. Yes, Bernie, I was referring to poor execution of a Christian living, which I think is far more commen than we would think. However, I also intend to expand on that and your gut feeling that that is also what I meant to do is also correct. Let me explain also with concrete examples. My wife in particular has many friends from school who got her acquainted with some of their friends and so on so that we know a variety of different people with different backgrounds. One of them was abused as a young girl by a Catholic priest and fell away from the church and will therefore not consider faith as an option for her life. Another friend was brought up in a typical Italian family were the parents did not pursue their Catholic faith. Due to problems (mental health issues) with her siblings when they attempted unsuccessfully to incorporate religion in their lives and now problems with her own mentally challenged child and a divorce she is unwilling to consider her religion and faith as potentially being helpful. She is held in high esteem by her friends having been to hell and back on a weekly basis it seems all her life and because she is coping admirably as the lone guardian of her dysfunctional larger family expending her own financial and emotional resources. She has become an expert in relying on whatever medical support and resources public and private agencies have to offer to enable her to help those around her. In other words she is totally functional and competent in a Christian role of support for those around her functioning as an energetic, polite and loving caregiver. Now, Christ is currently not on her horizon even though he is definitely listening to our and other's prayers for her. Now here is my point. These people do not meet the Protestant requirements that you outlined (they fit the Catholic one because of the idea of purgatory) and yet I suggest that they will have few problems when finally meeting Christ in person and they will get the usual loving embrace. (I definitely know that because if they wouldn't, then Christ would have to deal with my wife, and belief me, he will try to avoid that :-S ).

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